Major film studios featured nine fewer films with LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) characters in 2017 compared to the year before, according to an annual report by media-advocacy organization GLAAD.
Only 14 of the 109 films counted by the New York-based organization featured an LGBTQ character last year, accounting for fewer than 13% of major studio releases produced by the top seven studios according to box-office share. The organization rates studios’ efforts as excellent, good, insufficient, poor, or failing.
No film studio has earned an excellent rating in the six years GLAAD has tracked LGBTQ representation in its Studio Responsibility Index. Universal and 20th Century Fox received the highest marks, earning an “insufficient” rating. Among the titles pointed out by GLAAD researchers were Universal’s “Get Out,” which suggested the family’s housekeeper, Georgina, is a lesbian and Fox’s “Alien: Covenant.” The sci-fi action-thriller featured a gay couple, though it wasn’t until after the death of the gay characters that their relationship became clear. Sony’s “Rough Night” also earned praise for featuring two main characters, Blair (Zoë Kravitz) and Frankie (Ilana Glazer), who shared a kiss at the end of the movie, rekindling their romance.
Earning poor ratings were Disney and Sony. Lionsgate and Warner Bros. were rated as failing. Art house divisions like Fox Searchlight and Universal’s Focus Features were also analyzed as part of the report, but were not factored into their parent studios’ final rating.
The annual report is intended to pressure top movie studios to feature more LGBTQ characters and in more meaningful ways. This year, GLAAD issued a call to studios to ensure that at least 20% of major studio releases include LGBTQ characters by 2021 and 50% by 2024.
GLAAD and WME will host a panel Tuesday morning featuring Emmy-winning writer, actor, and producer Lena Waithe, intended to give a road map of how studios can better incorporate LGBTQ characters in films and televison.
“With wildly successful films like ‘Wonder Woman’ and ‘Black Panther’ proving that audiences want to see diverse stories that haven’t been told before, there is simply no reason for major studios to have such low scores on the Studio Responsibility Index,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO, in a statement. “At a time when the entertainment industry is holding much needed discussions about inclusion, now is the time to ensure the industry takes meaningful action and incorporates LGBTQ stories and creators as among priorities areas for growing diversity.”
The report says that often, LGBTQ characters get very little screen time or appear as the butt of jokes. GLAAD researchers applied the Vito Russo test in evaluating the quality of characters. The measurement examines how well-rounded and integral the character is to the plot of the film.
While the report found fewer films featuring LGBTQ characters, it found some bright spots, including greater racial diversity of characters. Additionally, a larger share of films passed the Vito Russo test last year compared with previous years. Sixty-four percent of LGBTQ-inclusive films passed muster according to the scale, up more than 20 points from 2016.
Unlike past years, the report found no transgender characters in any of the films analyzed. Still, the report’s author, Megan Townsend, director of entertainment research and analysis at GLAAD, noted a handful of 2018 releases that could help move the needle next year.
“Though wide release films this year like ‘Love, Simon,’ ‘Annihilation,’ ‘Blockers,’ and Negasonic and Yukio’s relationship in ‘Deadpool 2,’ have raised the bar for LGBTQ images, studios must still do more to ensure that LGBTQ storylines and characters are included in fair and accurate ways. We hope that these films are the start of an upward trend of sustained progress,” Townsend said in a statement.
GLAAD’s breakdown of films by major studio:
20th Century Fox: 14 films, two included LGBTQ characters. Two films passed Vito Russo test.
Lionsgate Entertainment: 19 films, two included LGBTQ characters. Two films passed the Vito Russo test.
Paramount Pictures: 11 films, two included appearances by LGBTQ characters. Just one film passed the Vito Russo test.
Sony Pictures: 25 films, one included appearances by LGBTQ characters. One film passed the Vito Russo test.
Universal Pictures: 14 films, four included appearances by LGBTQ people. One film passed the Vito Russo test.
Walt Disney Studios: 8 films, one included an appearance by LGBTQ characters. One passed the Vito Russo test.
Warner Brothers: 18 films, two included appearances by LGBTQ characters. One passed the Vito Russo test.